Central Oregon’s challenging growing conditions include: 1) a very short growing season (70-
100 days); 2) average annual precipitation of ~11 inches; 3) drastic swings in diurnal
temperatures; 4) possibility of frost anytime of year; and 5) sandy soils low in organic matter
(Detweiler, 2016). The USDA plant hardiness zones in Central Oregon range from 3 to 5, with
pasture and forages as the traditional crops grown in the area.
Despite the challenging growing conditions, there is fresh-market produce grown in Central
Oregon, and there is strong demand from the community through farmer markets, CSAs,
restaurant buyers, and wholesale accounts (Rahe et al., 2017). While some vegetables are grown
very well in the region, there is almost no fruit being produced in Central Oregon, despite strong
demand. Growers report that farmers’ market patrons with federal nutrition assistance benefit
vouchers want to use their vouchers to purchase berries (Jim Fields and David Kellner-Rode,
personal communication). According to Nicole Sanchez from OSU Extension in Klamath
County, there is also a severe lack of fresh berries available for purchase in Klamath County.
Raspberries and strawberries are the most suitable berries for Central Oregon due to their cold
hardiness (Detweiler and Strik, 2008), but yield loss due to winter injury and frosts are a major
concern. Elsewhere in the US, protected culture has been used to extend the berry growing
season and improve yields (Rowley et al., 2009 & 2010). In central Oregon, high tunnels are
currently used to grow multiple high-value vegetable crops in one season, so farmers are not
likely to plant a perennial crop in a high tunnel unless proven profitable. This project aims to
determine whether berry production in Central OR is an economically viable enterprise, and if
high tunnels are a justified expense to increase profitability and fruit quality.
Up until January 2019 there has not been any research initiated in this project, it has all been organization. The grower cooperators were confirmed in the late summer/early fall of 2018, and in November 2018 five of the farmers joined the PI on a field trip to the Willamette Valley. The field trip was a tour of two successful berry farms that grow both raspberries and strawberries under high tunnels and in the field. The tour was a great opportunity for grower cooperators to learn from these established berry farms and gain insight on protected and unprotected berry production.
All of the berry plants for the project were ordered in December 2018, including four varieties of raspberries and four varieties of strawberries. The PI and grower cooperators are meeting in late January 2019 to initiate spring planning, including plans for soil testing. Workshops associated with this project will begin in February.
The main trial site (mother site, hosted by PI) is being prepped and the OSU high tunnel is being ordered. The plan is to plant berries in April of 2019.
1. To evaluate raspberry and strawberry production in both protected and unprotected
culture systems in Central OR, including berry yield and quality, in order to help growers
choose the most successful production systems.
2. To compare multiple cultivars of raspberry and strawberry for suitability to Central OR,
including adaptability, berry yield, and quality, in order to help growers make cultivar
selections most likely to lead to production success.
3. To perform economic evaluation of both protected and unprotected berry production in
Central OR, and determine whether protected culture is a justified investment.
4. To maintain records of pest management problems as they occur in both protected and
5. To conduct local, regional and interstate outreach of berry crop research in the high
desert through field days, workshops, presentations, and fact sheets.
6. To increase the supply of fresh fruit as a healthy food option for Central OR residents
The research portion of this project will begin in April 2019 when the raspberries and strawberries are planted. The evaluation of berry production systems and varieties will be conducted at seven sites across the region using a mother-daughter experimental design. In this design, the mother trial includes all of the possible research treatments, while the daughter trials only include those treatments of interest to each farmer (Casler, 2015). The mother-daughter experimental design allows farmers to participate in research with fewer financial and labor restrictions, and participants are free to choose the treatments of greatest interest and value to their farm.
The mother trial will be managed and evaluated by the PI (Clare Sullivan) and located at research site that best represents the growing conditions of the region. A high tunnel approximately 30ft x 90ft will be used at the main research site. The six other sites are located on growers properties around the Central Oregon region. All sites will be managed organically, and soil amendments will be applied based on soil tests and in consultation with Clare Sullivan. For weed management, landscape fabric will be used between the raspberry rows (Hanson, 2014), and the strawberries will be planted into plastic mulch. Drip irrigation will be used on both high tunnel and field sites. Shade cloth will be used if necessary to protect the plants during the hottest parts of the summer, and low tunnels to protect the plants during the coldest months.
Mother trial design
The mother trial managed by the PI will compare varieties and production systems for both raspberry and strawberry crops. Side-by-side fields measuring 30ft x 90ft will be used to compare protected and unprotected culture with identical field plot designs. There will be four varieties of both raspberries and strawberries, replicated three times. Raspberries and strawberries will be planted according to recommended commercial practices (Marvin et al., 2017; Rowley et al., 2009 & 2010).
Daughter trial designs
Six farmer collaborators will host trials of the same berry cultivars used in the mother trial and will follow the same recommended commercial practices, although the size and type of high tunnel may vary by farm. The six farms were chosen strategically to represent different soil types and growing conditions across the region. Two growers are committed to hosting comparisons of protected and unprotected raspberry production; five growers are hosting comparisons of protected and unprotected strawberry production; and one grower is hosting a comparison of different raspberry varieties in the field.
Materials and Methods by Objective:
- During the 2019 and 2020 growing seasons, side-by-side comparison of protected and unprotected raspberry production will be conducted at three trial sites; side-by-side comparisons of protected and unprotected strawberry production will be conducted at six trial sites
- Data collection throughout season will include: timing of flowering and fruit production; overall yield; fruit quality; and any adverse effects on plants or fruit due to protected culture
- Track soil temperature and air temperature in protected vs unprotected culture; weekly monitoring during the cooler months and daily monitoring during the hotter months
- During the 2019 and 2020 growing seasons, side-by-side comparisons of at least three raspberry and three strawberry varieties will be conducted at no less than five trial sites
- Data collection as described above for Objective 1
- Compare establishment and maintenance costs in protected and unprotected systems
- Track labor hours required for maintenance and harvest in both production systems
- Track pest problems as they occur and make use of IPM strategies
- Host grower workshops and field days throughout the project, open to all interested growers
- Create fact sheets for dissemination and present at grower and Extension conferences
Educational & Outreach Activities
Consultations have been conducted individually with each of the six farmers involved in the research project. Clare Sullivan (PI) consulted on what berry crop type would best suit their operation, and helped them to choose berry cultivars of interest.
In November 2018 Clare Sullivan organized a tour of commercial berry farms in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, for the farmers that are involved in the research project. The PI and five farmers visited two different berry operations of differing scales and management techniques, that both grew raspberries and strawberries in high tunnels and in the field. The group received educational information from the two farm managers we visited, including perspective on planting and maintenance, variety selection, considerations for field and high tunnel production, and marketing information.
On February 4th, 2019 Tanya Murray from Oregon Tilth will be giving a “Cost of Production Workshop” at the OSU Extension office in Redmond (Central Oregon). The farmers involved in the berry project will be taught important labor tracking tool at this workshop. On February 26th there will be formal workshop held at the Extension office in Redmond on berry production, taught by the OSU Berry Specialist Dr. Bernadine Strik. Bernadine will speak to raspberry and strawberry establishment and maintenance, including integrated pest management. This workshop is open to anyone interested in berry production, and is required attendance for the farmers involved in the research project. In early March researchers from Utah State University have been invited to give a presentation on high tunnel production, and Brent Black will present on high tunnel berry production. Again, this workshop will be open to all who are interested.
Throughout the two growing seasons there will be field days and tours open to all interested participants from the region, and farmer workshops will be held in the fall and winter months on more in-depth topics.
Gained knowledge of establishing strawberries under plastic mulch, both in high tunnels and in the field
Learned the pros and cons of growing raspberries using fabric row cover
Awareness of the considerations for choosing berry varieties related to marketing
There are no project outcomes to report at this time.